North America’s Largest Woodworking Event | Tuesday–Friday | August 6–9, 2024


IWF Design Emphasis is widely acclaimed as a foremost furniture design competition for U.S. college The IWF Design Emphasis Student Furniture Design Competition has long given the youngest Woodworking Industry Designers a platform to showcase their innovative designs, helping to build their futures in the Woodworking Industry.  Widely acclaimed as a foremost furniture design competition for US College students, Design Emphasis affords students a platform to demonstrate their design skills and talent as the next generation of industry professionals.

Below we spotlight a few of the Best of Show winners from the list above, with their award-winning Design Emphasis entry and a look at where they are now.  Design Emphasis – shaping the future with Innovative Designs!

Rebecca Juliette-Duex: Best in Show Winner 2022 – Tea Towel Cart

Right: Designer, Rebecca Juliette-Deux; Left: Best in Show 2022 Winner – Tea Towel Cart


IWF: Can you tell us about your career since winning Best of Show at IWF?

Rebecca: Soon after the 2022 IWF show, I was awarded the Gondring Artist Residency at The Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem. The one year appointment began in January 2023 and continues through December 2023. At Sawtooth, I have the opportunity to be a student, teacher, studio assistant, and to continue my own independent studio practice. These roles have allowed me to deepen my knowledge of woodworking and to share the joy of creation with others. My recent work is an exploration of new techniques and is heavily influenced by the people I’ve met here and the place itself. Sawtooth is showcasing the work of all four current Artists-in-Residence (myself in wood and three others in clay) at a show that opens September 15 in their Davis Gallery. This is my first time creating a show-specific body of work and it is equal parts challenging and exciting. I am grateful for the entirety of my experience at Sawtooth and am planning to continue to teach and explore community connections there into the next year.

Rebecca’s current work is displayed clockwise from top left: Both Sides Now Chair, Love Seat, Sample Size, Service and I Carry Your Heart Basket

IWF: How did participating in and winning Design Emphasis inspire or affect your career?

Rebecca: Participating in the Design Emphasis show was a unique and unforgettable experience. Displaying work that was uniquely mine from design through construction was a proud moment. On top of that, the Best-in-Show award gave me confidence in my work and myself as an artist.

Maggie Jo Sanderson: Best in Show Winner 2018 – Skool Desk

Left: Best in Show 2018 Winner – Walnut Skool Desk; Right: Designer, Maggie Jo Sanderson


Social Handle: _maggiejo_

IWF: Can you tell us about your career since winning Best of Show at IWF?

Maggie Jo: Since winning Best of Show at the International Woodworking Fair in 2018, I completed my education at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, specializing in sustainable furniture design. Following graduation, I launched my own business, selling custom pieces nationwide. Recently, I had the chance to take some time away from the studio and woodshop to embark on an adventure, cycling through seven European countries. While traveling, I discovered that one of the best parts of a great adventure is the joy of coming home. I set off to capture this feeling through my designs. Now settled in Chicago, I plan to dive deeper than ever before into my passion as a designer and woodworker, but this time I will incorporate my passion and love for the outdoors into my pieces to create furniture made by an outdoor enthusiast for outdoor enthusiasts. Her goal is to craft furniture that not only evokes the essence of the outdoors but also offers the comforting feeling of homecoming.

Maggie Jo Sanderson’s current work from top left: Bench, Poker Chairs and Desk

IWF: How did participating in and winning Design Emphasis inspire or affect your career?

Maggie Jo: Winning Best of Show marked the starting point of my career as a furniture designer and maker. This achievement not only gave me the self-confidence I needed as a designer but also provided the media attention necessary to secure my first clients. It was a pivotal moment that propelled me on the path to success.

Ben Grant: Best in Show Winner 2016 – Gear Desk

Left: Designer, Ben Grant; Right: Best in Show 2016 Winner – Gear Desk


Social Handle: @bengrantwoodwork

IWF: Can you tell us about your career since winning Best of Show at IWF?

Ben: Since winning Best in Show at IWF in 2016, I have continued to produce one-of-a-kind custom furniture, as well as numerous smaller production items like spoons, bowls, and cutting boards. I also create artistic and whimsical wood carved sculptures of animals. As I further the exploration of my craft, I intend to blend functional woodworking with artistic design. From high-end commissioned furniture to craft show items and everything between, I am excited to see what comes next.

Ben Grant’s current work is displayed clockwise from top left: Puzzle Table, Bear, Puzzle Table Dovetail, Fish

IWF: How did participating in and winning Design Emphasis inspire or affect your career?

Ben: Winning Design Emphasis was a very inspirational experience. Seeing the work of so many other talented students was definitely a highlight for me. The entire process was highly motivational. Being around that many people who all shared the same passion made me excited to continue pursuing the craft.

Sean Yoo: Best in Show Winner 2000 – Multifunctional Sofa

Left: Designer, Sean Yoo; Right: Best in Show 2000 Winner – Multifunctional Sofa


Social Handle: ig:seanyoodesign

Currently residing in Matera, Mexico City and Washington DC, Sean Yoo was born in Seoul and raised in Los Angeles, making him emblematic of the multicultural, globally fluent designers of his generation. His first career was as a city planner, but a visit to the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York, inspired him to pursue design.

Yoo immediately enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, graduating in 2000 with a degree in industrial design. After a successful debut at the 2001 Salone Satellite in Milan, he launched his studio, Sean Yoo Design. As one of the handful of American designers working globally, he has quickly amassed a diverse group of international clients. In addition to Design Within Reach and Herman Miller, he has worked for Casamania, Jongform, Sur & Plus, Frighetto, Felicerossi, Calia Italia, Next Maruni of Japan, Steelcase Inc, Joined and Jointed UK and Breuer in Mexico City.

In 2002, he became the first non-Italian to win the prestigious Concorso Young & Design Award at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and in 2006, his work was selected by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Design Museum of Milan to be included in the I.DoT (Italian Design on Tour) 2006–2007. He has also won numerous awards including several I.D. Annual Design Review Awards, IWF Design Emphasis Award, Design Report Award, Grand Prix Award sponsored by Next Maruni of Japan, and the Premio Iconos del Diseño 2009 from Architectural Digest Mexico.

Sean Yoo’s current work is displayed clockwise from left: Willow Joined and Jointed Chair, Matera – Design Within Reach and Opus Incertum – Casamania

IWF: How did participating in and winning Design Emphasis inspire or affect your career?

Sean: I think I won both the Best of Show for my sofa design and the best category in seating for my chair design.  It was a great honor of course, but it also gave me industry wide exposure and opened many doors.

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Show Hours & Location

International Woodworking Fair
August 6–9, 2024

8:30 AM–5:00 PM*
8:30 AM–2:00 PM*

*Building A opens 7:30 AM Tue-Fri

Georgia World Congress Center
285 Andrew Young International Blvd
Atlanta, GA 30313

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